Today, as I watch the events of the Italian wine industry trade fairs unfold from afar, a Facebook friend from Padua, Andrea Fasolo, reminds me of a small miracle that takes place in the Veneto (where the trade fairs take place) and elsewhere in Italy during this time of the year: Vin Santo, via a post by VinoPigro from a few years ago.
It’s natural to think of Vin Santo as quintessentially Tuscan, since Tuscany is the region that continues to produce excellent expressions of Vin Santo with great commercial and qualitative success. But, however small the numbers in terms of volume, Vin Santo continues to be produced in other regions of Italy, notably the Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige.
While most wineries finished vinification long before Christmas of 2009, producers of Vin Santo are only now pressing their dried grapes (like those in the image above, left) for fermentation. One of the possible explanations of the name Vin Santo or Vinsanto, i.e., holy wine, is that fermentation is carried during the period of Easter — springtime, renewal, rebirth — when “Christ rises” again. One of the unique elements of Vin Santo is that fermentation occurs not when temperatures are cooling in fall but when temperatures are beginning to rise in the spring.
But the Easter miracle of Vin Santo doesn’t end here. Once vinification takes place, the wine is transferred to small barrels and laid to rest in the attic of a farm house or barn. There, the wine will remain unmolested for two years and it will undergo at least two more fermentations, “rising again” next spring and the spring thereafter.
The images here — like the one to the right, where the grapes are being removed from the racks where they’ve dried during the winter — come from the Canoso winery in Brognoligo, the “hamlet with the most surface area planted to vine” in the “township with the most surface area planted to vine” in all of Italy, Monteforte d’Alpone, near the town of Soave, in the Veneto, just east of Verona. Canoso is one of the handful of wineries that still makes Vinsanto there.
I was happy to sit the wine fairs out this year since I’ve been on the road so much already in 2010. But I’ve been enjoying the coverage on blogs like Alfonso’s and Ale’s. If I were there, I’d just be complaining about being in my region, the Veneto, and not being able to visit with my many friends in Padua and Belluno. But thanks to Andrea, I can still taste the sweet must (above, not yet filtered nor fined) of the Vinsanto that they’re making now… one of life’s holy, small miracles…